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Toronto Library Gets New Colorful Facade

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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The Albion branch of the Toronto Public Library is now as colorful and diverse as the city itself, thanks to new renovations.

Albion Library—just 20 miles outside of downtown Toronto, in Etobicoke—has been one of the city’s busiest libraries. Given the high level of use, the building was in need of repairs, and was planned to be closed for renovations. What Toronto got instead was a completely new library—a ground-up project designed and led by Perkins+Will Canada.

As one of the city’s busiest libraries, the Albion branch of the Toronto Public Library serves a highly diverse set of customers.

Images: Perkins+Will Canada

According to the architects, one of the most challenging aspects of this undertaking was figuring out a way to interweave two very different facade systems.

“Some people describe the library as a ‘Switzerland,’” Andrew Frontini, design director of the architecture firm, told the Toronto Star. “It’s a community hub, a hybrid public platform. It functions as a social welcome mat in a neighborhood of newcomers.”

The Library

The square structure, which is 35,000 square feet, holds a number of courtyards that function as reading gardens in the building proper, along with interior pavilions. The perimeter of the site is defined by polychrome terracotta tiles that are arranged in a series of bright colors, which contrasts smoothly against the surrounding monochromatic concrete.

“We wanted to create a colorful perimeter fence that lifts up to let people in. This screen speaks to both the richness of the community and offerings within the library," Frontini said. "The idea of using color and very fine texture as something that materializes and dematerializes led us to use terracotta.”

According to the architects, one of the most challenging aspects of this undertaking was figuring out a way to interweave two very different facade systems. The end result had to be cohesive enough to enclose walls and outdoor spaces, along with wrapping around the build’s complete square footage.

“Some people describe the library as a ‘Switzerland,’” Frontini told the Toronto Star. “It’s a community hub, a hybrid public platform. It functions as a social welcome mat in a neighborhood of newcomers.”

“The challenge was to get everything to align, and to achieve a consistency of detailed expressions when in fact we were dealing with two very different systems,” Frontini said.

 Building Design

The colorful array of terracotta pieces (NBK Keramik GmbH & Co.) is the primary wall assembly, which also functions as a rain sheet, and is composed of 3/4-inch vertical hollow-cell tongue-and-groove planks. These planks, which are finished in an unglazed beige grey, offset the more colorful terracotta baguettes. These, in turn, have been mechanically affixed into a rhythmic pattern on the facade.

The terracotta cladding itself is mounted on stainless steel clips, which attach it to a Z-girt system. Beyond the cladding is a rain screen, which is comprised of a vapor barrier, rigid insulation and structural steel stud sheathing.

To help the screen system flow into the second facade, upper and lower flashing from the rain screen gives a sense of visual continuity. The screen itself is built from 2-inch terracotta baguettes set two inches apart. The baguettes are also attached to the back of an HSS steel frame, which maintains the colorful array around the entire perimeter of the building. The baguettes are also clad to the interior and exterior, giving those in the courtyards a more complete, finished view, thanks to the framing.

Overall, the steel frame of the building has heavy timber Douglas fir purlins, as well as beams. There is also structural cedar decking to complement the terracotta rain screen and curtain wall (Aerloc Industries Inc.).

Terracotta Screening and Colorful Camouflaging

Frontini said that the Perkins+Will Canada team carefully selected colors for the terracotta, though the firm did not respond to a request from Durability + Design News to clarify what coatings were used for the scheme.

The same kind of curtain wall is also used in the interior of the courtyards, which blurs the boundaries between the library and the reading gardens.

“We were looking at an array of colors that would be evocative of a floral garden,” he said. "We wanted something that wasn’t immediately apparent in the existing landscape—colors that were distinct from the urban setting, and vibrant so that in the winter the colors would help to animate the interior.”

Within the screen assembly, the windows are camouflaged by spandrel panels above and below the window itself. A curtain wall system is in place below the terracotta, which creates a perimeter of transparent glazing around the perimeter. The same kind of curtain wall is also used in the interior of the courtyards, which blurs the boundaries between the library and the reading gardens.

The library also features a low-level radiant heating system set in a recessed trench along the curtain wall. This both stops drafts and provides heating to nearby library-goers.

The designers also implemented a green stormwater management system on the roof, which directs water into the courtyards.

“I find that the courtyards are quite magical,” said Frontini. “These pockets of greenery and color bring light deep into the building."

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Infrastructure; Renovation

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